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Munchkin cat

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An adolescent Munchkin kitten
OriginUnited States
Breed standards
Domestic cat (Felis catus)

The Munchkin is a breed of cat characterized by its very short legs, which are caused by genetic mutation. Compared to many other cat breeds, it is a relatively new breed, documented since 1940s[1] and officially recognized in 1991.[2] The Munchkin is considered to be the original breed of dwarf cat.

Much controversy erupted over the breed when it was recognized by The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1997 with critics voicing concerns over potential health and mobility issues.[3] Many pedigree cat associations around the world have refused to recognize the Munchkin cat due to the welfare of the breed and uncertainty of the health issues,[4] including the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF).[5] Breeding of Munchkin cats is prohibited by law in several countries due to these genetic health concerns.

The name derives from writer L. Frank Baum's diminutive inhabitants of Munchkin Country, originating in the 1900 novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.[6][7][8]


Breed creation[edit]

Short-legged cats have been documented a number of times around the world since the 1940s. A British veterinary report in 1944 noted four generations of short-legged cats which were similar to normal cats except for the length of the legs. This line disappeared during the Second World War but other short-legged cats were spotted in Russia during 1956 and the United States in the 1970s.[1]

In 1983, Sandra Hochenedel, a music teacher in Rayville, Louisiana, found two pregnant cats who had been chased under a truck by a dog.[9] She kept one of the cats and named her Blackberry and half of her kittens were born short-legged. Hochenedel gave a short-legged male kitten from one of Blackberry's litters to a friend, Kay LaFrance of Monroe, Louisiana, and she named the kitten Toulouse.[9] It is from Blackberry and Toulouse's litter that today's Munchkin breed is descended.[9]

Registry history[edit]

The Munchkin cat was first introduced to the general public in 1991 via a national network televised cat show held by The International Cat Association (TICA) in Davis, Oklahoma.[10] However, the breed would not be officially recognized at that time. Critics predicted that the breed would develop back, hip and leg problems similar to those that plague some dachshunds.[11] For many years, the Munchkin breed was not accepted in feline competitions due to the controversial breeding.[9] Solveig Pflueger, a show judge, geneticist, and chairperson of TICA's Genetics Committee was a strong advocate for the official recognition of the breed. Pflueger was also a breeder of Munchkin cats herself, having been initially sent two cats from Hochenedel.[11] Amidst much controversy, the Munchkin was proposed as a new breed by foundation breeders Laurie Bobskill and Robert Bobskill of Massachusetts and accepted by TICA into its new breed development program in September 1994. Veteran show judge Katherine Crawford resigned in protest, calling the breed an affront to breeders with ethics.[9][12] The Munchkin breed achieved TICA championship status in May 2003.[1]

Currently, the only registries that fully recognize the breed are TICA, the Southern Africa Cat Council, the Australian Cat Federation, the World Cat Federation, and Catz Incorporated (New Zealand).[13][14][15] There is controversy among breeders of pedigree cats as to what genetic mutations are abnormal and potentially disadvantageous to the cat.[16] Katie Lisnik, director of cat protection and policy at the Humane Society of the United States, has said: "Breeding animals for exaggerated physical characteristics, particularly when it compromises overall health, is irresponsible".[17] Several cat registries do not recognize the Munchkin: Fédération Internationale Féline, which refuses to recognize what they consider a breed based on a "genetic disease". achondroplasia.[18] The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy likewise refuses to recognize the breed, considering this breed and others like it to be "unacceptable" because they are based on an "abnormal structure or development".[5] The breed is also not recognized by the Cat Fanciers' Association.[19]

Welfare concern[edit]

Breeding bans[edit]

Several[quantify] countries and territories have prohibited breeding with Munchkins, including the Netherlands (2014), which prohibits breeding of all animals with genetic defects,[20] and Victoria (Australia).[21] The Australian Capital Territory (a territory of Australia) government considers the Munchkin breed to be "malformed animals" and the deliberate breeding of them "unacceptable" because of the "genetic health problems associated with such breeding".[22]

Munchkin cross-breeds like the bambino have also been subject to legal restrictions.


Munchkin kitten, 7 months old

Some sources state that the shortness of their legs does not interfere with their running and leaping abilities,[23] while others state their ability to jump is limited by their condition.[4]

The Munchkin has similar characteristics to normal domestic cats, due to their frequent use as outcrosses. It is a small to medium-sized cat with a moderate body type and medium-plush coat. Male Munchkins typically weigh between 6 and 9 pounds (2.7 and 4.1 kg) and are usually larger than female Munchkins, which typically weigh between 4 and 8 pounds (1.8 and 3.6 kg). The hind legs can be slightly longer than the front which creates a slight rise from the shoulder to the rump. The legs of the Munchkin may be slightly bowed, although excessive bowing is a disqualification in the show ring. Cow-hocked legs are also penalized.[1][10]

The Munchkin comes in all coat colors and patterns. It also comes in a long-haired variety, which is shown in a separate Munchkin Longhair category. The short-haired variety has a medium-plush coat while the long-haired has a semi-long silky coat.[1] TICA rules for outcrossing allows the use of any domestic cat that does not already belong to a recognized breed. Similarity to other breeds is grounds for disqualification. Non-standard Munchkins are not allowed to be shown.[24]

In 2014, Lilieput, a Munchkin cat from Napa, California, was named the shortest statured living cat in the world by Guinness World Records. She stands 5.25 inches (133 mm) tall.[25]


It is not fully known how the mutation impacts the health of the breed. Having only been officially introduced in 1991, the breed is still considered young.[2] There were early speculations that the Munchkin would develop spinal problems commonly seen in short-legged dog breeds.[26]

The genetic mutation causing the short-legged trait in Munchkins is referred to as achondroplasia,[18][27] the genetic disorder that results in dwarfism and is typically associated with an enlarged head as well as short legs but can also involve symptoms that include undersized jaw, thick-looking joints, curved spine, and a bow-legged or knock knee posture.[28] The condition has sometimes been referred to as hypochondroplasia or pseudoachondroplasia.[29][30]

However, there appear to be two conditions with increased incidence in the Munchkin breed: lordosis (excessive curvature of the spine)[citation needed] and pectus excavatum (hollowed chest).[31] Both conditions are commonly seen in humans with pseudoachondroplasia.[29]

Munchkin cats are known to be at a higher risk (than other feline breeds) for severe osteoarthritis because the shorter limbs affect their activity levels and behavior.[4][32] Diagnosis of osteoarthritis and the assessment of its severity for a cat may require radiography.[4]

Many pedigree cat associations around the world have refused to recognize the Munchkin cat due to dwarfism's possible health issues.[4]


The Munchkin gene is autosomal dominant.[18] Homozygous embryos for the Munchkin gene, with two copies of the gene, are not viable and do not develop in the womb. Only kittens that are heterozygous for the Munchkin gene, with only one copy, develop into viable short-legged Munchkin kittens.[30] Because only heterozygous Munchkin cats are able to pass on the gene, all litters with at least one standard (short legged) Munchkin parent have the possibility of containing kittens with the phenotypes: short-legged or normal-legged (referred to as non-standard Munchkin), with the genotypes of Mm or mm, where M is the trait for short legs and m is the trait for long legs. The mating of two Munchkin parents, Mm x Mm, have the chance of producing these offspring: 25% MM- a nonviable kitten, 50% Mm-short-legged, 25% mm- normal. The resulting litter will be 2/3 Mm-short-legged and 1/3 mm-normal.

Punnett squares, in which the M represents the dominant Munchkin gene and the m represents the recessive normal gene, may be used to illustrate the chances of a particular mating resulting in a short-legged cat.

Kittens bearing two copies of the Munchkin gene (MM) will not develop in the womb. Kittens bearing one Munchkin gene and one normal gene (Mm) will be short-legged Munchkins. Kittens bearing two normal genes (mm) will be normal. Mm Munchkin kittens will be able to pass on the Munchkin gene to their own offspring. Normal mm kittens will not, as they do not have a copy of the Munchkin gene.

When two Munchkin cats are crossed and small litter sizes occur, this indicates that embryos that are homozygous for the Munchkin gene are non-viable.[30]

Mating two standard Munchkins
M m
m Mm mm

For each kitten conceived from this mating, there is a 25% chance it will fail to gestate, a 25% chance it will be normal, and a 50% chance it will be short-legged.

Mating a standard or non-standard Munchkin with a normal cat
M m
m Mm mm
m Mm mm

For each kitten conceived from this mating, there is a 0% chance it will be homozygous for the Munchkin gene, a 50% chance it will be normal non-standard (long legged) Munchkin, and a 50% chance it will be a standard (short legged) Munchkin.

Derived breeds[edit]

The popularity of the Munchkin[33] has led to the crossbreeding of the Munchkin with other breeds, to try to establish new, derived breeds, most of which are unrecognised by any major registry. Some named experimental crossbreeds (all of them dwarf cats) include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Munchkin Breed". The International Cat Association (TICA). August 13, 2018. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Munchkin breed". Fitzroy Vet Hospital VIC. July 23, 2015. Archived from the original on December 4, 2020. however the breed is young, having only been introduced to the public as an official breed in 1991.
  3. ^ "Vets warn trend for sausage cats is cruel". Metro UK. January 31, 2017. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Genetic Welfare Problems of Companion Animals, Munchkin - Limb Deformity". Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW). Retrieved July 15, 2020.
  5. ^ a b The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, The GCCF says Health Comes First Archived May 4, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Munchkin & Midget Cat Breed Facts". www.petmd.com. petMD, LLC.
  7. ^ Nunn, Lyn. "Munchkin Cats - Origin and History". Cat Breeds Junction. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  8. ^ Fawcett, Kirstin (June 3, 2016). "7 Short Facts About Munchkin Cats". Mental Floss. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  9. ^ a b c d e Stall, Sam (2007). 100 Cats Who Changed Civilization: History's Most Influential Felines. Philadelphia, PA: Quirk Books. pp. 20–22. ISBN 9781594741630 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ a b Helgren, J. Anne (2006). "Iams Cat Breed Guide: Munchkin". Telemark Productions. Archived from the original on March 18, 2012. Retrieved March 29, 2012.
  11. ^ a b "A Cat Fight Breaks Out Over a Breed". The New York Times. Associated Press. July 23, 1995. Retrieved February 7, 2010.
  12. ^ Helgren, J. Anne (1998). "Encyclopedia of Cat Breeds: Munchkin Cat". Barron's Educational Series. Archived from the original on May 22, 2020. Retrieved February 7, 2010.
  13. ^ "Breed Comparisons - Munchkin | World Cat Congress". www.worldcatcongress.org.
  14. ^ "Breed Numbers" (PDF). Catz Incorporated. Retrieved January 19, 2024.
  15. ^ "Munchkin Shorthair". World Cat Federation. Retrieved January 20, 2024.
  16. ^ Morris, Desmond S. (1988). Catwatching & Catlore. Arrow Books Ltd. pp. 183–186. ISBN 0-09-922901-3.
  17. ^ "People Are Breeding Cats To Have Too-Short Legs". The Dodo. February 2017.
  18. ^ a b c Breeding and Registration Rules: 2.7.3 Genetic Diseases. Fédération Internationale Feline
  19. ^ Cat Fanciers' Association,CFA Breeds Archived June 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "Fokken met uw hond of kat – wat mag wel en wat niet? - Honden en katten - NVWA". August 24, 2023.
  21. ^ Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (July 6, 2020). "Code of Practice for the Breeding of Animals with Heritable Defects that Cause Disease - Agriculture". Agriculture Victoria. Retrieved April 1, 2023.
  22. ^ Australian Capital Territory, Code of Practice for the Welfare of Cats in the ACT
  23. ^ Stroud, Jon (2008). The DVD Book of Cats. Green Umbrella Pubg.
  24. ^ "Munchkin Breed Group Standard" (PDF). The International Cat Association. May 1, 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 7, 2017. Retrieved May 30, 2016.
  25. ^ Yune, Howard (October 3, 2014). "Tiny Napa cat stands tall in new Guinness record book". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved October 3, 2014.
  26. ^ "Munchkin: Fur is flying over this rare cat breed". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved March 6, 2020. She X-rayed their joints and bones and found no evidence of crippling. So she began breeding Munchkins
  27. ^ "Achondroplasia". Genetics Home Reference. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
  28. ^ "Feline Dwarfism". Basepaws. March 6, 2019. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
  29. ^ a b Wedderburn, Pete (October 2008). "Cat breeds–Trophies with hidden problems". Journal of Small Animal Practice. BSAVA Companion. 49 (10): 7–9. doi:10.1111/j.1748-5827.2008.00680.x. This selection for an albeit naturally occurring mutation, resulting in pseudoachondroplasia, has resulted in a breed which appears to have an increased incidence of pectus excavatum and spinal lordosis, both problems commonly seen in human patients with pseudoachondroplasia.
  30. ^ a b c Genetic Abnormalities of Cats. Messybeast.com Cat Resource
  31. ^ Hubler, M.; Langley-Hobbs, S.J. (2009). "Hereditary and congenital musculoskeletal diseases". In Montavon, P.M.; Voss, K.; Langley-Hobbs, S.J. (eds.). Feline Orthopedic Surgery and Musculoskeletal Disease. Saunders Ltd. pp. 41–53. doi:10.1016/B978-0-7020-2986-8.00010-0. ISBN 978-0-7020-2986-8. There may be a familial tendency to thoracic wall deformities (pectus excavatum, unilateral thoracic wall concavity) in Bengal kittens, and chondrodystrophic Munchkin cats may also have an increased incidence of pectus excavatum and spinal lordosis.
  32. ^ Ettinger, Stephen J.; Feldman, Edward C.; Bennett, D.; May, C. (1995). "Joint diseases of Dogs and Cats". Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine (4 ed.). Philadelphia: Saunders. p. 2053. ISBN 978-0721667959.
  33. ^ Gunter, Melissa (November 15, 2023). "Grey Munchkin Cat: Facts, Origin & History (With Pictures)". Catster. Retrieved January 20, 2024.
  34. ^ "Bambino". Rare and Exotic Feline Registry. January 26, 2020.
  35. ^ Broad, Michael (August 5, 2019). "Bambino cat breeder ordered to stop by Dutch authorities". Pictures of Cats (PoC). Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  36. ^ "Couple given official warning for breeding 'sad' hairless cat". DutchNews.nl. August 2, 2019. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  37. ^ a b c d e "Breed Recognition". RareExoticFelineRegistry.com. Rare and Exotic Feline Registry. December 31, 2019. Retrieved January 20, 2024.
  38. ^ "Lambkin". RareExoticFelineRegistry.com. Rare and Exotic Feline Registry. February 25, 2020. Retrieved January 20, 2024.
  39. ^ "Minskin (Preliminary New Breed)". TICA.org. The International Cat Association. July 31, 2018. Retrieved January 27, 2024.
  40. ^ "Minuet Breed". TICA.org. The International Cat Association. August 13, 2018. Retrieved January 27, 2023.
  41. ^ "Minuet". TICA.org. The International Cat Association. Archived from the original on September 12, 2015. Retrieved January 21, 2024.
  42. ^ "Napoleon". RareExoticFelineRegistry.com. Rare and Exotic Feline Registry. March 2, 2020. Retrieved January 27, 2024.